Hot-weather Meal Preparation
Summertime… the livin’ might be easy, but managing meal preparation presents special challenges. While it might be tempting to resort to take-out for the next three months, this can put a serious strain on family finances. Below are some approaches to help you eat economically at home while keeping (relatively) cool.
- Do as much prep as possible during the cool hours of the day. Peak heat is typically between 3:00-5:00; if you cook dinner then, you and your kitchen will sweltering by the time you are done. A better strategy is to do the bulk of your prep and cooking after the sun goes down or early in the morning, when you can still catch a cool breeze. Just re-warm or put the finishing touches on it in the evening. This is also a smart strategy if your electricity rates are tied to time-of-use as you will avoid mid-day peak rates.
- Use your slow cooker. Prep your ingredients (in the cool of the morning), toss them in the cooker, turn it on and anticipate a great dinner at the end of the day. This list will get you all the way through to cooler temps.
- Use a roaster oven. This is a fantastic tool! Basically a portable oven, you can put food directly into it or place casserole dishes or loaf pans inside it for a more dishwasher-friendly clean-up and you can put it anywhere there is an electric outlet. Put it on your patio, deck or in your garage (make sure it is safe from curious pets and away from water sources) and you can enjoy baked and roasted foods midsummer without heating up your house.
- Plan no-cook or low-cook foods. Salads, sandwiches, tacos and baked potatoes with the fixings are usually quick and easy and can be even easier and more fun if you add “bar” on to the end and let everyone assemble their own. Look up “best salads”, “best sandwiches”, etc online for more good ideas than you will ever possibly use.
- Cook outdoors. Fire up the grill, see this month’s article on open-fire cooking or the June 2014 issue on setting up an inexpensive solar cooker.